NFC North Needs and Activity

Some analysts think the Vikings have significantly narrowed the gap between them and the Green Bay Packers. We look at the team needs of the NFC North rivals and what they've done to date to shore them up.

CHICAGO BEARS

After re-signing two of their own UFA's, LB Lance Briggs and QB Rex Grossman, and adding a pair of veteran wide receivers in Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd, the Bears may be content to stand pat until the draft, although they still have gaping holes on the offensive line and could use RB and QB talent. Despite the addition of Booker and Lloyd, they are still without a legitimate No. 1 WR.

The Bears are in decent shape defensively, but there are some questions that remain in the secondary. Nickel CB Ricky Manning Jr. and SS Adam Archuleta were unproductive and overpaid last season, and it would be surprising if either of them were welcomed back without a restructuring their deals to make them more in line with their declining production. The same is true of S Mike Brown, whose frequent injuries over the past four seasons makes relying on him a major gamble. If both Brown and Archuleta are released, the Bears will need a replacement or two who can either challenge for a starting spot or provide quality depth.

1. Offensive line: A starting tackle and a starting guard are necessary. Ancient ex-starters RT Fred Miller and LG Ruben Brown won't be back. Miller was cut, and Brown wasn't offered a new contract. LT John Tait, 33, would benefit from a move to the right side. Six-year veteran Terrence Metcalf was a flop when given a chance to replace Brown. There are no young stars in the pipeline, and C Olin Kreutz is entering his 11th season. Backup OT John St. Clair finished the season starting at left guard.

2. Running back: There is a lack of speed and big-play potential. It doesn't appear that Cedric Benson, the fourth overall pick in 2005, will ever be special, and he has shown no big-play potential, so a speed back is warranted. Adrian Peterson is an adequate backup and third-down replacement, and Garrett Wolfe is too small to be anything but a third-down back and change-of-pace guy.

3. Wide receiver: The addition of veterans Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd help, but Booker will be 32 before the season starts and Lloyd has failed to live up to expectations. Devin Hester remains a project, though a talented one. After three years, Mark Bradley has proven only that he has potential; the Bears are still waiting for the production.

MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

  • OG Ruben Brown missed the final eight games of the season with a shoulder injury that required surgery, which, after 13 NFL seasons, is probably a career ender.

  • DT Antonio Garay is a bottom-of-the-depth chart player who finished the season on injured reserve with a fractured ankle.
    RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

  • WR Rashied Davis (tendered at $927,000 with no compensation) is a tough, little, dependable guy suited to the slot or as a No. 4 wideout, and he contributes on special teams.

  • S Brandon McGowan (tendered at $1.47M with 2nd-round pick as compensation) is a big hitter with potential, but he's inconsistent as a pass defender and has an injury history.
    EXCLUSIVE RIGHS FREE AGENTS: None.
    PLAYERS ACQUIRED

  • WR Marty Booker: FA Dolphins; $3.5M/2 yrs, SB unknown.

  • WR Brandon Lloyd: FA Redskins; $645,000/1 yr, $40,000 WO; 2008 cap: $485,000.
    PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

  • LB Lance Briggs: UFA; $36M/6 yrs, $4M SB/$3.75M RB; $4.75M RB ‘09, $3.3M RB ‘10.

  • QB Rex Grossman: Potential UFA; $3M/1 yr, $1.5M guaranteed.
    PLAYERS LOST

  • LB Brendon Ayanbadejo: UFA Ravens; $4.9M/4 yrs, $1.9M SB.

  • WR Bernard Berrian: UFA Vikings; $42M/6 yrs, $$5M SB/$8M RB; $3M RB ‘09.

  • TE John Gilmore: UFA Buccaneers; terms unknown.

  • QB Brian Griese (traded Buccaneers).

  • CB Ade Jimoh (released).

  • DT Jimmy Kennedy: UFA Jaguars (Bears had individually negotiated right of first refusal and did not match); $655,000/1 yr, $50,000 SB.

  • T Fred Miller (released/failed physical).

  • WR Muhsin Muhammad (released).

  • DT Darwin Walker (released).


    DETROIT LIONS

    The Lions aren't expected to make any more major moves in free agency since room is tight under the salary cap. They tried and failed to fill some of their needs, pursuing a trade for Jonathan Vilma, visiting with Dan Morgan and trying to sign Julius Jones. There just isn't much left on the market.

    To improve in some key areas, the Lions are going to have to improve in the draft.

    1. Middle linebacker: The Lions don't have a Shelton Quarles to patrol the middle in the Tampa Two, let alone a Brian Urlacher. They tried to trade for Jonathan Vilma and looked into signing Dan Morgan. They have visited with Al Wilson and he remains a possibility. Ideally, the Lions would like to add a veteran and move Paris Lenon to the strong side. Without a Patrick Willis-type at No. 15, the Lions will probably have to find someone later in the draft.

    2. Defensive end: The Tampa Two defense relies on a strong four-man rush, and the Lions don't have an elite pass rusher. Kalimba Edwards didn't develop as hoped and as cut. Dewayne White is currently the starting right end, but he would be better as a left end. There do not appear to be any defensive ends that would fit at No. 15. The Lions will probably need to find one later. However, if Derrick Harvey slips to No. 15, the Lions could grab him.

    3. Offensive tackle: The Lions tried to keep Damien Woody to play right tackle, but they weren't willing to pay what the New York Jets did. They have re-signed George Foster, but only as insurance. They badly need to upgrade this position at a time when they want to run the ball more. If Boise State's Ryan Clady, Vanderbilt's Chris Williams or Pittsburgh's Jeff Otah are still on the board at No. 15, the Lions could snap him up.

    4. Running back. The Lions lost free agent T.J. Duckett to Seattle, then watched the Seahawks win the battle for Cowboys free agent Julius Jones. Detroit re-signed Tatum Bell to ensure some veteran with experience was on the roster when they decided to cut Kevin Jones on March 13.

    MEDICAL WATCH: Wide receiver Shaun McDonald's offseason knee surgery was "just a routine clean-up," according to his agent, Jim Steiner. Steiner wrote McDonald is "progressing very well" and "will be 100%." Safety Daniel Bullocks is progressing in his recovery from a torn ACL and is expected to be ready for training camp.
    FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
    TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
    UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

  • S Idrees Bashir could be back because the Lions need depth in the secondary.

  • OT Barry Stokes was signed late in the season when the Lions had problems on the offensive line. He was cut earlier, though, and probably won't be back.

  • WR Troy Walters was a solid fifth receiver and return man. The Lions would like him back.
    UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)

  • DB LaMarcus Hicks (not tendered as ERFA) has been unremarkable, but he could be brought back for depth.
    RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

  • DL Langston Moore (tendered at $927,000 with 6th-round pick as compensation) was a valuable role player with a knack for making players. Marinelli will want him back.

  • QB Dan Orlovsky (tendered at $927,000 with 5th-round pick as compensation) has gotten virtually no chance to play since being drafted in the fifth round in 2005. The Lions might want to see what they've got.

  • G Stephen Peterman (tendered at $927,000 with 3rd-round pick as compensation) beat out Damien Woody for the starting right guard job. The coaches love his toughness.

  • CB Stanley Wilson (tendered at $927,000 with 3rd-round pick as compensation) has not developed as expected. He lost his job as a starting corner in 2007. But he's a young player, and the Lions need depth.
    EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS

  • WR Devale Ellis spent 2007 in the physically unable to perform list with a knee injury.
    PLAYERS ACQUIRED

  • CB Leigh Bodden (trade Browns).

  • DT Chuck Darby: UFA Seahawks; 3 yrs, terms unknown.

  • TE Michael Gaines: UFA Bills; $10M/4 yrs, $3M guaranteed.

  • LB Gilbert Gardner: UFA Titans; 1 yr, terms unknown.

  • OG Corey Hulsey: FA; 1 yr, terms unknown.

  • CB Brian Kelly: UFA Buccaneers; 3 yrs, terms unknown.

  • S Kalvin Pearson: RFA Buccaneers; $3.5M/3 yrs, $1.1M SB (Buccaneers elected not to match and receive no compensation).

  • S Dwight Smith: FA Vikings; $5M/2 yrs, $350,000 SB/$300,000 reporting bonus; 2008 cap: $1.825M.
    PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

  • RB Tatum Bell: UFA; $1.6M/1 yr, SB unknown.

  • DB Greg Blue: ERFA; terms unknown.

  • RB Aveion Cason: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.

  • CB Travis Fisher: UFA; $9M/3 yrs, SB unknown.

  • OT George Foster: UFA; $1.1M/1 yr, SB unknown.

  • TE Sean McHugh: ERFA; terms unknown.

  • DE Corey Smith: UFA; terms unknown.

  • CB Keith Smith: Potential UFA; $5M/2 yrs, SB unknown.

  • TE John Owens: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
    PLAYERS LOST

  • LB Boss Bailey: UFA Broncos; $17.5M/5 yrs, $4.35M SB.

  • CB Fernando Bryant (released).

  • RB T.J. Duckett: UFA Seahawks; $17M/5 yrs, $5M guaranteed.

  • DE Kalimba Edwards (released; post-June 1 designation).

  • RB Kevin Jones (released/failed physical).

  • S Kenoy Kennedy (released).

  • LB Teddy Lehman: UFA Buccaneers; terms unknown.

  • QB J.T. O'Sullivan: UFA 49ers; $645,000/1 yr, $40,000 SB.

  • DT Shaun Rogers (traded Browns).

  • C/G Blaine Saipaia (released).

  • T/G Damien Woody: UFA Jets; $25.5M/5 yrs, $8.75M guaranteed.


    GREEN BAY PACKERS

    The team's most pressing concern in the weeks ahead before the draft is to get a quarterback on board to serve as Aaron Rodgers' backup after the retirement of Brett Favre. GM Ted Thompson seems inclined to add a veteran for that role, rather than wait on taking a prospect in the draft. Come draft weekend in late April, the Packers will be in solid position to upgrade the depth at cornerback, tight end and on the offensive line with three picks in the first 60 selections.


    1. Cornerback: With age creeping up on Pro Bowlers Al Harris, 33, and Charles Woodson, 31, and no surefire young replacements in reserve, Green Bay figures to give a long look to the top prospects at the position as the draft commences. Tennessee State's Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a perfect fit as a tall, aggressive, speedy cover corner, but high marks he's received thus far in the offseason will have him off the board by No. 30, when the Packers have their first-round selection.

    2. Tight end: Even before former starter Bubba Franks was cut in February, Donald Lee was the only reliable player at the position. The team is hopeful young prospect Tory Humphrey can be immune to an injury history. To protect itself, Green Bay could strike early in the draft and tap into a deep tight-end class, led by USC's Fred Davis.

    3. Offensive tackle: Like the situation with their starting cornerbacks, the Packers have to start thinking about taking out a couple insurance policies for mainstay bookend tackles Chad Clifton, 31, on the left side and Mark Tauscher, 30, on the right side. Both players have been injury prone the last few years, though they've been hardy in playing through them.

    MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.
    FRANCHISE PLAYER: DT Corey Williams (tendered at $6.363M; traded to Browns for second-round pick in 2008 draft).
    TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
    UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

  • TE Ryan Krause, a better receiver than blocker, offered little after being promoted from the practice squad at midseason. His return is uncertain, although a spot was cleared when the team cut veteran Bubba Franks as a salary-cap casualty.

  • QB Craig Nall returned to the team late in the season as the No. 3 guy at the position. Nall wasn't interested in continuing to serve as the caddie for both Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, but with Favre off in retirement, Nall could be brought back for a chance to compete for the No. 2 job.

  • T/G Tyson Walter spent the entire season on injured reserve because of a toe injury. The versatile, rugged veteran is worth bringing back to compete for a backup spot.
    UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)

  • WR Carlyle Holiday (not tendered as ERFA), a converted quarterback, missed all but the season-opening game with a knee injury but, when healthy, has shown to be a dynamic situational receiver.
    RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

  • DT Colin Cole (tendered at $1.47M with 2nd-round pick as compensation) is a run stuffer, who figures to stay put and will try to rebound from a season-ending broken forearm he sustained in the Thanksgiving Day game.

  • RB Vernand Morency (tendered at $927,000 with 3rd-round pick as compensation) was relegated to a situational role after missing the entire preseason with a knee injury, isn't a must-have for next season but probably will be in the offseason competition for the backup jobs.
    EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS

  • RB Ryan Grant proved to be a godsend for a previously anemic running game the second half of the season and can write his ticket as a franchise back by racking up proficient performances for a full season.

  • WR Ruvell Martin has been a capable, tall target as a possession receiver but will be in a crowded battle to stick with the team as the No. 4 or No. 5 guy.
    PLAYERS ACQUIRED

  • LB Brandon Chillar: UFA Rams; $5.4M/2 yrs, $550,000 SB/$1M RB; 2008 cap: $3.15M.

  • OT Joe Toledo: FA Dolphins; terms unknown.
    PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

  • S Atari Bigby: ERFA; $445,000/1 yr.

  • TE Tory Humphrey: ERFA; $445,000/1 yr.

  • FB John Kuhn: ERFA; $445,000/1 yr.

  • LB Tracy White: UFA; $1.8M/2 yrs, $250,000 SB.
    PLAYERS LOST

  • LS Rob Davis: UFA; retired.

  • QB Brett Favre (retired).

  • TE Bubba Franks (released).

  • CB Frank Walker: UFA Ravens; $3.5M/2 yrs, $1.25M SB.

  • DT Corey Williams: Franchise FA re-signed and traded to Browns; $38M/6 yrs, $16.5M guaranteed.



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